Is my Marriage or Civil Partnership legally recognised?

What is a Marriage

A Marriage is a legally recognised status which attaches to it certain legal rights and responsibilities. There are strict rules on who can and who cannot marry each other. A Marriage may be classed as valid, void or voidable depending on the circumstances. 

What is a Civil Partnership

This is a new status introduced by the Civil Partnership Act 2004, which came into force December 2005. This is very similar to marriage but not identical.

The Law of Nullit

The Law of Nullity tells us who may marry or enter into a civil partnership and with whom.

Valid Marriage/ Civil Partnership

These are binding on everyone and can only be ended on death, divorce or dissolution.

Void Marriages/Civil Partnerships

These Marriages/ Civil partnerships never actually come into existence because of a fundamental defect  

Voidable Marriages/Civil Partnerships

These partnerships are valid until they are annulled 


A marriage that has complied with no formalities and with no legal consequences 

When are Marriages/Civil Partnerships VOID

Under section 11 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, a marriage that was celebrated after 31st July 1971 will be void on the following grounds: 

  • The parties are within the prohibited degrees of relationships

  • Either party is under the age of sixteen

  • At the time of the marriage either party was already lawfully married or in a civil partnership with someone else

  • Parties are not respectively Male and Female

16 and 17year olds will need permission from their legal parent /guardian, However if they do not get permission the marriage will not be void. If the parent/guardian puts a notice against the marriage on the Marriage register then if the marriage goes ahead it will be void in the eyes of the law. 

The Prohibited Degrees of a Relationship

If any two people within the list below marry each other, they are said to be in the prohibited degrees of a relationship and the marriage will be automatically VOID. The marriage would legally have never come into existence so there will be no rights or responsibilities enforceable against each other.

  • Child of a former Civil Partner (Stepchildren)

  • Child of a Former spouse (Stepchildren)

  • Former Civil Partner of a Grandparent (Step-Grandparents)

  • Former Civil Partner of a Parent (step-Parent)

  • Former Spouse of a Grandparent

  • Former Spouse of a Parent

  • Grandchildren of a former civil partner

  • Grandchildren of a former Spouse

  • Siblings

  • Parents/ Children

  • Grandchildren

  • Aunties/Uncles

  • Nephew/Nieces

When are two people unable to register for a civil partnership? Reasons why a Civil Partnership may be void

Two people are not eligible to become civil Partners if: 

  • They are not of the same sex

  • Either of them is already a civil partner or lawfully married

  • Either of them is under 16years old

  • They are within the prohibited degrees of a relationship 

Presumption of Marriage

There is a presumption that a marriage ceremony has complied with all the legal requirements set by English law where there is evidence to show a ceremony has taken place and the parties have since lived together as husband and wife. 

This has been introduced to protect those who have a ceremony which they believe to be a legally binding marriage to later find out certain requirements to create a legal binding marriage under the law of England and Wales was not included.

This is ultimately to protect a couples interests after the death of one partner, as a spouse/Civil partner will have more rights in relation to a person’s will/estate than a cohabiting partner (Girlfriend/Boyfriend).  

Voidable Marriages and Civil Partnerships

A marriage or Civil Partnership is Voidable if any of the following has occurred:

  • The marriage has not been consummated due to the incapacity of either party

  • The Marriage has not been consummated due to the wilful refusal of either party

  • Either party to the marriage did not validly consent to it. The consent was a result of a threat, a mistake, or unsoundness of mind

  • At the time of the marriage either party was able to consent but was suffering from a mental disorder to such an extent as to be unfit for marriage

  • At the time of marriage either party was suffering from a communicable venereal disease

  • At the time of the marriage the female was pregnant with another man’s baby

  • A gender recognition certificate has been issued after the marriage to either party